Trigger warning: Sexual abuse, Rape
In countries like Pakistan and India, a woman can rarely say that she has not been harassed or abused even once in her life. With babies and girls as young as 2 becoming a victim of abuse, countries such as these are one of the most dangerous countries for a woman to be born in.
While movements such as #metoo and #timesup and organisations such Aurat Foundation, AWID, and FRIDA have completely taken over the chauvinistic world by storm, it is still imperative to note that there are still millions of women out there who have yet to come forward with their stories of abuse. So, why is it that even with movements and organisations such as these, women still feel compelled to hide the truth? Well, the answer is a little more complicated than one might think.
The Log Kia Kahainge (What Will People Say) Mentality
There are numerous reasons why women refuse to report their experiences and even hide them from friends and family. However, one of the biggest reasons is said to be self-blame. This practice of self-blaming is not only caused by the victim blaming culture in our society but also by the deeply rooted societal issues and broken principles of the male dominating societies where women are taught that voicing their opinions is wrong. Women often feel as if they are the ones at fault if such an incident occurs. Embarrassment is another common reason why women refuse to report such crimes.
This practice of self-blaming is not only caused by the victim blaming culture in our society but also by the deeply rooted societal issues and broken principles of the male dominating societies
Honour Over Life
Honour is the 2nd highest reason for women to not report sexual abuse. In countries such as Pakistan and India, where a woman’s honour—or izzat—is considered more important than her life, women are often scared to report such incidents because by reporting them, they believe they are dishonouring their families. In other cases, women who do wish to speak out, are often silenced by their own families as reporting such cases only results in bringing shame to their families. Honour killing is a well-known practice among the Pakistani and Indian communities and having a woman come forward as a victim of sexual assault is often a reason for it because victim blaming is not only acceptable in such communities but there is also a greater tendency to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator.
A Taboo Lifestyle
Another reason for women not reporting sexual abuse is that in countries where sex education and all talk related to a human reproductive system are taboo, women and children often don’t recognise such incidents as sexual abuse or rape. Research shows that on average, 60.4% of women don’t recognise their experience as sexual harassment or rape. Another research shows that children and teenagers often trivialise such experiences as normal or unimportant.
Zia Ahmed Awan, founder of Madadgaar National Helpline and the National Commissioner for children in Pakistan stated that 70% of women experience sexual or physical abuse by their spouses and a staggering 93% experience some form of sexual violence by random strangers in public spaces. However, based on research, only 18% of adult women and children report sexual abuse and rape worldwide, where the primary reason for them to not do so is guilt and embarrassment.
victim blaming is not only acceptable in such communities but there is also a greater tendency to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator.
In Pakistan, many violent crimes against women are prohibited by law, however, most of these laws are not implemented and the general lack of awareness regarding such topics often leads to the promotion of such a culture. Nazish Brohi, a social researcher, talked with a local Pakistani news channel, laying out the key reasons why women don’t report to the authorities if they are sexually harassed or raped. The stigma of rape and abuse often becomes the reason for them not to report sexual abuse and even if they do, cases such as these often drag on for years. From the lawyer’s expenses to the impact on the affected family, the cost of reporting rape is just too high for many families.
However, the same can be said about the cost of not reporting sexual abuse. By not allowing reporting such incidents, we systematically and willingly promote rape culture in the society as rapists and sexual predators often end up believing that committing such crimes will not have any consequences. By stopping women from reporting such crimes, we are allowing men to continue to sexually assault and harass women. By telling women it was their own fault they got sexually abused or raped, we are allowing rapists to justify what they do.
We promote rape culture by maintaining the culture of silence because we believe gender-based violence is an acceptable thing. With women not being allowed or them willingly refusing to report such acts due to our society’s conditioning, they are missing a magnificent opportunity to teach others to be strong and bold. Reporting sexual assault is not enough to change societal views on its own but it certainly is a step closer towards improving the community and creating enough fear in the mind of the perpetrator to think twice before acting on his whims.
Featured Image Source: Digital Rights Monitor